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It’s like eating from a tub of ice cream with an enticing bowl of hot spicy soup on the side!

Whoa, or should that be phwoar? I’ve just read a newly-published novel called Conversations by an author I’ve never heard of, J C Pascoe (male or female?). I came across the book while searching on Amazon for something else and it’s a page turner with a difference—lots of high-class steamy sex. Now, I don’t usually go for books that describe the mating activities between us humans—Fifty Shades of Grey passed me by with barely a crack of the whip—but this book caught my attention and, as it turns out, is not primarily about sex. The sex bits sort of creep up on you. Let me explain.

The novel describes a series of conversations between a middle-aged beekeeper called Gerry and an attractive early-twenties student called Abi. Gerry is divorced and has taken early retirement to spend the rest of his life looking after his honey bees and, occasionally, drink a cup of coffee in his local coffee shop just to be with people and watch the world go by.

The story starts with Abi accosting Gerry in the coffee shop and asking if he would like to engage with her as a conversationalist. It turns out she’s in her final year of a university degree course in social sciences and she wants to bounce a few ideas around to, as it were, get her own thoughts in order before starting on her end-of-course dissertation. She needs to pick a subject and then write the dissertation and she’s uncertain what topic to pick so she asks Gerry if he would become a verbal sparring partner on a variety of topics. Having determined that Abi would probably look good in the shower, Gerry agrees. (You can see where this going.)

They create a list of topics and off they go, setting up weekly discussions that start in the coffee shop but then migrate to Gerry’s bachelor pad which turns out to be a small but cosy cottage down the end of a lane with a secluded sun-trap area out the back suitable for in-the-buff sunbathing. The topics are all over the map and include, for example, a belief in God (Gerry’s a believer, Abi’s not), tattoos and body piercings (Gerry has none, Abi has one tattoo in a secret place revealed only to “lovers and friends on benefits”), breastfeeding in public (Gerry’s against, Abi’s for), celebrity culture (Abi accepts but ignores celebrities, Gerry pulls the social phenomenon to shreds), mass immigration into Europe from the war-torn Middle East (Abi’s in favour, Gerry’s on the fence), the impact of pornography freely available on the web (since his divorce, Gerry uses online porn as a masturbation aid, Abi can take it or leave it but has learnt techniques from it), and many other controversial topics.

It was the conversation topics listed on the Contents page that drew me to the book. Gerry is almost forty years older than Abi and as you might guess often presents different views to those held by Abi. The discussion on the British Royal Family is particularly interesting. Gerry’s an old-school royalist and puts up a strong defence in the face of Abi’s view that the Royal Family should be abolished. I’m with Abi on that one. I enjoyed the various conversations—fifteen different topics are explored—and the author clearly enjoyed putting the various pros and cons together. If you are stimulated by subjects that can lead to a bar fight, or worse, you will enjoy Conversations. And to make matters more interesting, Gerry throws in many facts about the lives of honey bees in a bee hive. I know nothing about bees or beekeeping but, as it turns out, they are fascinating creatures and could certainly teach us a thing or two on how we could better organise ourselves within the societies we’ve created.

But, that’s not all. As I started reading the book I came across what Pascoe describes as “shadow” chapters. (There’s an illuminating interview with the author at the back of the book.) The shadow flashback chapters chart the progress of Gerry and Abi’s introduction into the mysterious and exciting world of sex as they travelled through puberty and matured into adults with adult relationships. The shadow chapters alternate between Gerry (tacked on to chapters 1, 3, 5, …) and Abi (tacked on to chapters 2, 4, 6, …). We read of Gerry’s first spontaneous nocturnal emission (“wet dream”) and what caused it; Abi’s experiments, first with boys and once with girls; Gerry’s initiation into full sexual congress by an older but accommodating landlady; Abi’s three-month pre-university European trip with her friend Sally and “a bucket load of condoms” in her rucksack; Gerry’s exploration and use of pornography after his divorce; and much more. Make no mistake, these shadow chapters are sexually explicit and is what merited the “whoa” at the start of my review. This is not a book you want to leave lying around if you have pre-teen or even teen children in the house. This is definitely a top-shelf book destined to nestle alongside Fanny Hill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover and if you have it, Fifty Shades of Grey. Keep it away from small but inquisitive prying eyes.

As the end of the story approaches so we are very sure that Gerry and Abi are going to “get it together” and get it together they do in an explosive sequence of sex, more sex and yet more sex over their last weekend together, from Friday evening to late Sunday afternoon. I mean, we are talking joint showers (Gerry finally gets to see Abi naked in the shower and discovers the location of her tattoo), novel uses of honey and ice cubes, skinny dipping and al fresco sex, getting turned on watching porn on a laptop, and… I don’t want to give too much away but if you are knowledgeable about the special technique Wallis Simpson was said to possess and which captivated Edward VIII’s private parts, literally, there’s some of that as well.

The combination of discussions on serious matters between two people with an age gap of almost forty years and the interwoven sex shadow chapters caught my imagination. One minute you’re deep into, say, the potential impact of an ever-expanding world population (seven billion and growing) and the next a detailed description of some sex-related incident in the life of either Gerry or Abi. It’s like eating from a tub of ice cream with an enticing bowl of hot spicy soup on the side!

Conversations is a great read and there are hints of a sequel although quite how Pascoe can do this is beyond me. His, or her, literary style is engaging and encourages page turning although I warn you some of the discussions are heavy with facts and figures flying off the page. Read the serious bits in the evening in front of a fire and with your favourite tipple to hand. Read the sexy bits on the beach. Either way, I recommend the book to you and encourage you to read it.

As for me, it’s time for a coffee. I might try the coffee shop down town!

HorizontalRuleConversations is available in both paperback and e-book formats from Amazon, priced £4.65/$6.74 Kindle edition, £7.02/$9.99 + P&P paperback. Search All with “Conversations J C Pascoe”.